The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Breaking News

September 10, 2013

Google loses appeal in Street View snooping case

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A federal appeals court said Google wrongly collected people's personal correspondence and online activities through their Wi-Fi systems as it drove down their streets with car cameras shooting photos for its Street View mapping project.

The ruling that the practice violates wiretap laws sends a warning to other companies seeking to suck up vast amounts of data from unencrypted Wi-Fi signals.

"The payload data transmitted over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks that was captured by Google included emails, usernames, passwords, images, and documents," wrote the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco in a report released Tuesday

Google had argued that their activities were exempt from the wiretap law because data transmitted over a Wi-Fi network is a "radio communication" and is "readily accessible to the public."

Not so, wrote the judges, agreeing with an earlier federal judge's ruling.

"Even if it is commonplace for members of the general public to connect to a neighbor's unencrypted Wi-Fi network, members of the general public do not typically mistakenly intercept, store, and decode data transmitted by other devices on the network," they said.

Google's Street View cars can be spotted with pole mounted cameras on their roofs, photographing along roadways the world over. The photos then show up on Google's popular Street View map option, where viewers can virtually scroll along a street past homes, cars and shops, all captured in photographs.

But unbeknownst to passers-by, those cameras weren't just making photos. They were also collecting detailed information transmitted over Wi-Fi networks they passed through.

Privacy experts and industry watchers said this was the first time an appeals court has ruled that it's illegal for a company to sniff out and collect private information from the Wi-Fi networks that provide Internet service to people at home. Google is also the first publically known company to try.

"This appeals court decision is a tremendous victory for privacy rights. It means Google can't suck up private communications from people's Wi-Fi networks and claim their Wi-Spying was exempt from federal wiretap laws," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's privacy project director. "Because Google's Wi-Spy activity was so extensive, the potential damages could amount to billions of dollars."

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of Electronic Privacy Information Center, called it "a landmark decision for Internet privacy."

"The court made clear that the federal privacy law applies to residential Wi-Fi networks," he said. "Users should be protected when a company tries to capture data that travels between their laptop and their printer in their home."

A Google spokesperson said Tuesday that attorneys for the Internet giant are "disappointed in the 9th Circuit's decision and are considering our next steps."

Attorney Elizabeth Cabraser, representing a class action of plaintiffs who say their privacy was invaded by Google said Tuesday they look forward to resuming their case now that a federal appeals court has ruled in their favor.

Google has apologized for the snooping, which it says took place between 2008 and March 2010. It promised to stop collecting the data and said the practice, conducted in more than 30 countries, was inadvertent but not illegal.

Earlier this year Google settled a 37-state lawsuit for $7 million after attorney generals sued over what they said was an invasion of privacy for the data collection.

The practice was discovered by a German data protection commissioner in 2010. A few months later, Google co-founder Sergey Brin told conference goers the firm had made a mistake.

"In short, let me just say that we screwed up," he said at the time.

Google says it has disabled the equipment that was collecting the data, and agreed to destroy the information as soon as possible. The company is currently obliged to hold it, unused, because of ongoing litigation.

 

1
Text Only
Breaking News
  • High court nixes $3.4M award to child porn victim

    The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a plea to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view their images online, throwing out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely seen on the Internet. Two dissenting justices said Congress should change the law to benefit victims.

    April 24, 2014

  • Son eulogizes slain officer mother as 'amazing'

    An Indianapolis police officer slain by her ex-husband, a fellow officer who then killed himself, was eulogized by her son as the "most amazing person" at her funeral Wednesday.

    April 24, 2014

  • NWS - HB0424 - Rebecca Sperry - JC 1 Survivors of violent accident, mother and baby return home from hospital The past two and a half weeks of Rebecca Sperry's life have been a harrowing series of ups and downs.

    April 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Reservoir opponents take message to Earth Day

    Opponents of a proposed reservoir in central Indiana hope to use this weekend's Earth Day festivals to spread the word about their concerns about the $350 million dam project, which would inundate part of a state park known for its ancient earthworks.

    April 23, 2014

  • Smoke leads to crash on Indiana 13 A girl was hit by a motorcycle, but not seriously injured, after smoke from a controlled burn limited visibility on Indiana 13 Wednesday afternoon.

    April 23, 2014

  • First lady announces one-stop job site for vets

    To help veterans leaving the military as it downsizes, the government on Wednesday started a one-stop job-shopping website for them to create resumes, connect with employers and become part of a database for companies to mine.

    April 23, 2014

  • US weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer. It's an effort to deal with high costs and overcrowding in prisons, and also a matter of fairness, the government says.

    April 23, 2014

  • Michigan man among 1st in US to get 'bionic eye'

    Thanks to a high-tech procedure that involved the surgical implantation of a "bionic eye," Roger Pontz has regained enough of his eyesight to catch small glimpses of his wife, grandson and cat.

    April 23, 2014

  • Airport security vulnerabilities not uncommon

    For all the tens of billions of dollars that the nation has spent on screening passengers and their bags, few airports made a comparable investment to secure the airplanes themselves.

    April 23, 2014

  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014

Featured Ads
More Resources from The Herald Bulletin
AP Video
SKorea Ferry Toll Hits 156, Search Gets Tougher Video Shows Possible Syrian Gas Attack Cubs Superfans Celebrate Wrigley's 100th Raw: Cattle Truck Overturns in Texas Admirers Flock to Dole During Kansas Homecoming Raw: Erupting Volcanoes in Guatemala and Peru Alibaba IPO Could Be Largest Ever for Tech Firm FBI Joining Probe of Suburban NY 'Swatting' Call U.S. Paratroopers in Poland, Amid Ukraine Crisis US Reviews Clemency for Certain Inmates Raw: Violence Erupts in Rio Near Olympic Venue Raw: Deadly Bombing in Egypt Raw: What's Inside a Commercial Jet Wheel Well Raw: Obama Arrives in Japan for State Visit Raw: Anti-Obama Activists Fight Manila Police Motels Near Disney Fighting Homeless Problem Michigan Man Sees Thanks to 'bionic Eye' S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Helium debate
Helium
Front page
Poll

Will you vote in the primary election on May 6?

Yes, on May 6
Yes, will vote early
No
     View Results